Although Haverford managed to reopen its campus to all students, staff, and faculty, due to the severity of the pandemic, the college community is joining from all over the world. Even in the same class, many students and professors are facing entirely different situations. Some are attending school on campus, while others are studying remotely or have a mixture of both virtual and in-person courses. To get a sense of this semester’s different modes of learning, the Clerk’s Jessie Lin decided to interview three students about their first few weeks of classes, then compare it to her own experience.
Kagan Harris ’21: On campus with all online courses
“I sort of expected that my classes would be all remote, but just wanted the on-campus experience,” said Harris. Despite taking all of his courses online, Harris decided to spend the semester at Haverford and even become a UCA for a first-year hall. For Harris, making connections with people and hearing different stories are essential parts of making college a meaningful experience, but forging such connections have become incredibly challenging over Zoom—especially when advising students overwhelmed with coursework.
Comparing taking online courses at home and on campus, Harris believes there is a big difference: “I personally really struggle with focusing on academics and social life, anything outside my immediate surroundings, when I am at home.” After struggling to adapt last semester, Harris now feels like he is back to the pace of college, attributing it to being surrounded by like minded peers.
Harris also appreciates the ability to get outdoors on such a lovely campus. He’s been enjoying his spare time on Founders Green, the Nature Trail, and the green spaces outside of his dorm. At home, Harris lives on a busy road not safe for pedestrians, so he lacked the ability to walk around on breaks from classes last spring.
Poppy Northing ’22: On campus with all Bryn Mawr courses
“I constantly worried when my classes were and where they were. Adjusting to this different schedule, with a course beginning at 8:00 am four times a week, is really hard,” said Northing, when recalling her first week of class. In the pre-COVID era, classes rarely began before 9:00 at Haverford. But to avoid any potential crowding and leave time to sanitize the classrooms, courses are spread out over a larger time span this fall.
Despite this, Northing is happy to take in-person classes, as she finds engaging with asynchronous lectures online quite challenging: “I appreciate having the privilege to be able to go to class, hear a person speaking to me, and ask questions without being afraid of the awkwardness on Zoom.”
But all is not the same as normal. Due to personal concerns, Northing has decided to forego eating at Bryn Mawr. Feeling uncomfortable with taking the Blue Bus, she has started biking to Bryn Mawr—an activity she has found joy in through the autonomy it offers.
Natalie Olivieri ’23: On campus with a hybrid course load
“It feels quite weird being in a classroom with everyone wearing a mask,” said Olivieri. “And the mask definitely limits the amount of connection you feel.” After all, it is challenging to read a person’s facial expressions through masks, hindering the flow of emotions in communication.
Taking her virtual organic chemistry lab and in-person biology lab at the same time, Olivieri noticed the significant difference between doing experiments by herself and watching videos of others’ operations. “You really can’t experience what is like to be a scientist unless you’re doing in-person lab work. In bio labs, you get the opportunity to understand what you’re learning in the protocols. It made me appreciate it more.”
For Olivieri, who values connections with others, she always finds herself mentally refreshed after going to a class in person. It helps her get through the week. “Something I never realized is how much I enjoyed walking to classes because these few minutes can be a break from studying, being outside, and running into people.”
Jessie Lin ’24 (the author of this piece), studying at home in Beijing, China
“I have to say that this is a very stressful week. I need to adapt to the transition from high school to college as well as arrange my schedule reasonably according to my time zone.” Due to the 12-hour difference between EDT and her time, GMT+8, she’s had no choice but to become a night owl, working at midnight and sleeping during the daytime.
Joining the college remotely is perhaps far more challenging as a first-year, especially when accessing academic resources. “The resources such as OAR, personal librarians, and writing centers seem less approachable to me since I only meet them in my email inbox instead of seeing how they functioned in the real world,” said Lin.
“What excites me most about going to campus would be meeting with all those friends I made via Zoom in-person as well as joining the clubs and student organizations.” Although distance learning doesn’t lead to a complete disconnection from the rest of college, Lin feels it would be much better to have face-to-face interactions.